Ukulele Beginners tips- tabs - what are the symbols?

16 Oct 2010

Ukulele Beginners tips- tabs - what are the symbols?

If you have bought yourself a ukulele, you are presumably using the vast resource of the internet to download some songs and chords.

Sheets with words and the chord name above are easy to follow, you just strum the chord shown.  The alternative is the tablature format (or tabs) which show a representation of the neck of the uke, and use numbers on the strings to show which fret to hold when that string is plucked or strummed.

If you are a beginner however, you may find a range of other strange symbols that mean nothing to you.  This guide talks you through the most common ones you will see.

h=Hammer on - this is the action of "hammering down" or in english, putting the finger on a string that has been plucked at another fret without picking it again.  This changes the already vibrating string sound to the new fretted note and is a nice effect.  You may see it written on tabs like this, which means to pluck the string at the 7th fret, and whilst it is still ringing to place a finger on the same string but at the 9th.


p=Pull off - this is the opposite of the hammer on, where you release the string that has been hammered on.  You may see it like this, which follows the example above - and it means to pluck the string at the seventh, hammer on to the 9th, and then release the finger from the 9th whilst still ringing, allowing the string to go back to the 7th


\ or / or s = Slides - this is the action of plucking the string at a certain fret, and then whilst it is still ringing, sliding the fretting finger either up or down the string to another fret whilst it is still ringing.  / usually means to slide up, and \ to slide down.  's' means both.  In the following example it means to pluck the string at the 5th, and whilst its ringing slide up to the 9th.


b or ^ = Bends.  This is the action of bending the string whilst holding it at a fret to change the pitch to another note.  This is usually shown on tabs by following the bend symbol with the note you are bending up to.  For example

e|--------5b7----------   means to pluck the string at the 5th, and bend the string to the pitch of the 7th fret - you do this by pulling the string across the neck to physically bend or stretch it.

v or ~ = Vibrato - Vibrato is that shimmery wobbly effect you get by effectively shaking the string.  Its usually achieved by holding the fretted string and rocking the finger up and down or side to side.  Its tricky to master but gives a great effect.

An example would be e|-------13vvvvvv---------  and the number of symbols is indicative of how long you should perform the vibrato.

I hope the above are a help, and stop those tabs being quite so confusing.


  1. Thank you so much! Your explanations are very useful!

  2. I still don't get it but i thank you for what you did

  3. I was wondering about a weird hashtag on F but im sure this helped some people ;)


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